Should we judge musicians based on their politics? Ye or no?

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Kanye West met with President Trump in the Oval Office earlier this week causing a stir and making headlines with his public endorsement of the Republican. This isn’t Kanye’s first time getting mixed up in some bad press this year, his controversial politics making him a topic of conversation across the globe, sparking the question of should we be judging musicians on more than just the music they make?

Artists’ opinions and their work have always been interlinked – it’s common for people to use their creative outlets to express themselves and what they represent. Kanye has always been big into incorporating his opinions into the lyrics of his songs. New Slaves is literally a track focussed on the U.S.’s burgeoning private prison system and let’s not forget the iconic “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”. So why are people taking Kanye’s opinions so to heart when he’s always been outspoken?

Some would believe you can continue to listen to the music of someone you don’t politically agree with. Enjoying someone’s music doesn’t have to reflect your personal opinions, so why restrict yourself of something you enjoy? Maybe people are taking Kanye’s comments so personally because being engaged by his music does make them feel like they understand him and may even mean that they’ve grown to love him, so it’s easy for them to feel personally offended by his actions. But it won’t affect his career in the long-term.

Maybe people should care and stop listening? If you imagine this situation in an everyday circumstance… imagine finding a plumber who is the friendliest human you’ve ever met and fixes your leaking shower to perfection. Would you hire him again if you discovered he was homophobic?

Celebrities are fascinating as they appear to live in another world – doing and seeing things we can only imagine – but the reality is is that they’re just like us. Most celebrities get a free pass to act however they like in society because they are perceived to be above a regular person. And if we have the power to stop condoning their behaviour by not supporting/funding their careers then shouldn’t we? Not only should we maybe stop listening to the music of the people we don’t agree with but also stop watching their TV shows, stop buying their products and stop giving them attention and praise?

I took to twitter asking “Would you judge someone based on their political/moral beliefs?” and 71% of voters said they would. But when this question is applied to pop culture the same rules don’t seem to apply. Johnny Depp can be prosecuted for abusing his ex-wife and still get cast as the leading role in the new Fantastic Beasts film. The President of the United States of America – Donald Trump – still got elected after he said we should grab women “by the pussy”. The results simply don’t match up and celebrities don’t seem to be held accountable for their actions to the same extent that a regular human being would be.

If you think Kanye is still a great guy regardless of his political opinion then you keep supporting him. But if you are one of the 71% of people who judge others based on their politics then you should probably apply these rules to the celebrities you admire.

It can be tough to reconcile accusations against your favourite musicians and it’s pretty normal to have a range of complicated feelings, but the notion that someone who is more well known or has high authority can have different consequences than someone who is ‘normal’ is ridiculous. Only you can decide what you’re morally okay with but before you decide which celebrities you truly admire, imagine they were your hairdresser or your doctor, and ask yourself would you pay for their services if you knew they said the same things Kanye said? 

By Seonaidh McGuire

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